Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Provincetown Eiders - Nov 11th

A return visit to the Outer Cape couldn't quite match last week's superb day for gulls and other species, but I still had an enjoyable day all the same. The wind was pretty fearsome from the West, later swinging North-west, and actually much stronger that I'd anticipated from the forecast. Having had a mediocre morning at Herring Cove and Race Point I wandered down to Provincetown Harbor where I knew I could find some close birds and hopefully a bit of shelter from the wind. The Eiders grabbed my attention straight away. I always find them so attractive and MacMillan Wharf is such a superb place to see them close. As expected, all showed strong characteristics of S.m. dresseri sometimes called 'American Eider', primarily breeding along the Atlantic Coast from NE Canada to Maine. Having found a male 'Northern Eider' S. m. borealis here in Dec 2006, I was aware of the possibilities but admittedly a little disappointed when all of the males that I checked showed nice rounded frontal bill lobes, and olive-gray bills pretty typical of male S. m. dresseri.

Common Eider - Images 1 & 2 - S.m. dresseri. Males showing nice rounded frontal bill lobes. Variation in some females from dark reddish-brown to almost ginger-brown.

Common Eider - 3 - S.m. dresseri. Group containing a rather pallid, gray looking female/juv (center).

One rather gray, 'pallid' looking female caught my attention and stood out from the rest of the flock, the females of which were almost all reddish-brown, varying from dark red-brown to almost ginger-brown, but not gray or cold toned like this bird.

Common Eider - 4 - S.m. dresseri with gray looking female/juv (rear).

Common Eider - 5 & 6 - S.m. dresseri with gray looking female/juv (foreground). These images were taken in the shadow thrown from the wharf. The pale gray tones are less obvious here, but the bird still appears cold-toned compared the the accompanying dresseri.

Common Eider - gray female/juv with typical female/juv dresseri.

Common Eider - gray female, race uncertain. This close-up (taken in shade) appears to show pointed rather than rounded frontal lobes - perhaps another indicator of a bird from from more Northerly populations?

Comments on the appearance of this bird and pointers to the racial identification of gray looking females would be most welcome.

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